Over the past year, Liberal Democrat MPs have tabled a number of Private Members’ Bills that would make important changes to help build a fairer country, tackle deep-rooted inequalities and ensure a more effective response to the Covid pandemic.
Eleven key Liberal Democrat Bills were due to have “Second Reading” – the next stage of their progress through Parliament – over the next three months.
Some have been waiting for over nine months. But today, Jacob Rees-Mogg is pushing through a government motion in the House of Commons that will end any chance of them becoming law in this parliamentary session.
Here are the eleven crucial new laws that the Conservatives are blocking today:
1. Giving NHS and care workers the right to stay
Like the rest of our wonderful NHS and care staff, hundreds of thousands of people from other countries are on the frontlines of the Covid pandemic, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure we get the care we need.
The idea that any of them might one day be forced to leave should be unthinkable.
It’s time the Govt recognised the work being done by foreign nationals in NHS & social care during the #COVID19 crisis. That’s why I introduced my Private Members bill & will continue fighting for them- #NHS #LeaveNoOneBehind@EveryDoctorUK @TheDA_UKhttps://t.co/F6pkyheaLI— Christine Jardine (@cajardineMP) November 20, 2020
So Christine Jardine’s Immigration (Health and Social Care Staff) Bill would have given them and their families the right to settle here, without the costs or bureaucratic hurdles that usually involves.
2. Holding a Public Inquiry into the Covid crisis
Back in July, Ed Davey secured a commitment from Boris Johnson to hold a Public Inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic.
However, the Prime Minister still hasn’t launched the Inquiry or set out a timetable for when he will do so.
That’s why Ed tabled the Coronavirus Inquiry Bill, to force the Government to set up the inquiry now.
3. Introducing an ‘X’ gender option on passports
The hundreds of thousands of non-binary people across the UK deserve to have their identities recognised and their dignity respected. Yet the Conservative Government is still refusing even to offer them an ‘X’ gender option on passports.
Christine Jardine’s Non-gender-specific Passports Bill would have forced the Government to introduce this relatively small change that would make a big difference to so many people’s lives.
4. Making misogyny a hate crime
It is unacceptable that, in the UK in the 21st century, so many women and girls are subject to violence and other hate crimes simply because of their gender.
Wera Hobhouse's Hate Crime (Misogyny) Bill would have made these crimes “aggravated offences”, so that hate crimes based on gender are treated as severely as those motivated by racial or religious hatred, and so all victims are properly protected.
5. Helping people to balance caring responsibilities with work
Millions of people juggle work with unpaid caring responsibilities - this can be very hard
Millions of people juggle work with unpaid caring responsibilities, and this can be hard: every day, an estimated 640 people give up paid work altogether in order to care.
So Ed Davey is proposing a change to the law to make it just a little easier.
His Employment (Reasonable Adjustments for Carers) Bill would have required employers to make reasonable adjustments – such as offering flexible working – to enable employees with caring responsibilities to provide that care.
6. Giving EU citizens the rights they were promised
Boris Johnson and the Conservatives promised to automatically guarantee the rights of all EU citizens to stay in the UK, but they have broken that promise.
The Government’s “Settled Status” scheme is anything but automatic. EU citizens have to apply by the end of June, or be left effectively undocumented and subject to the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment – at risk of eviction, detention and even deportation.
Liberal Democrats are fighting to give EU citizens the automatic right to stay in the UK, without the need to apply – and Christine Jardine’s European Citizens’ Rights Bill would have done just that.
7. Abolishing suspicion-less Stop and Search
Black people are 18 times more likely to be subject to Section 60 ‘suspicion-less’ Stop and Search than White people. This undermines the trust and confidence that is vital to prevent crime through effective community policing.
Liberal Democrats are fighting to end the disproportionate use of Stop and Search against black people, and Ed Davey tabled the Police Stop and Search (Repeal) Bill to abolish Section 60.
8. Ending the gender price gap
Women and girls are discriminated against at the shops by the gender price gap: products marketed specifically at women are 37% more expensive on average than those marketed at men.
Christine Jardine’s Gender-based Pricing (Prohibition) Bill would have outlawed this so-called ‘Pink Tax’.
9. Standing up for the people of Hong Kong
The UK has a moral and legal duty to ensure that democracy, the rule of law and human rights are upheld in Hong Kong. During the Handover, the late Paddy Ashdown passionately argued that the people of Hong Kong should be given the right to live in the UK if they held British National Overseas (BNO) passports.
The Foreign Office has had months to prepare sanctions against Chinese officials abusing the rule of law in Hong Kong so to talk about "speculation" at this late stage will not cut it. Government must impose Magnitsky sanctions on those responsible now.https://t.co/jjB3TRNovU— Alistair Carmichael (@amcarmichaelMP) November 12, 2020
The Government’s recent extension of visa rights for existing BNO passport-holders is welcome, but it doesn’t go far enough.
That's why Alistair Carmichael tabled the Hong Kong Bill, which would have re-opened the passports offer to also give young Hong Kongers the right to live in the UK.
10. Reducing the number of women in prison
Around 17,000 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment
Women make up less than 5% of the prison population, but they are more likely than men to be serving short sentences for non-violent offences. The majority of women in prison experienced childhood abuse and many are victims of domestic abuse.
Meanwhile, around 17,000 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment each year and the vast majority of them are moved out of their homes as a result.
So Daisy Cooper’s Sentencing (Women) Bill would have ended the use of prison for women, except for those who have committed a serious or violent offence and pose a threat to the public.
11. Lifting the ban on all-ethnic-minority shortlists
All-women shortlists have been very successful at increasing the number of women in Parliament. Now we must do the same to achieve racial equality, since Westminster is still too dominated by white politicians.
All-ethnic-minority shortlists could help. Parties shouldn’t be forced to use them, but they shouldn’t be prevented from using them if they choose -- as they are under the current law.
Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for several years to lift that ban, and Wera Hobhouses’ Election Candidates (All-ethnic-minority Shortlists) Bill would have done just that.
Although Jacob Rees-Mogg’s motion today means that these Bills will not progress any further in this parliamentary session, this is not the end of our fight.
Liberal Democrats will keep working to secure these changes to the law and build a fairer, safer and more caring society.